How to find the right horse rug

ArticleHow to - Tack and EquipmentMonday 03 September 2012

Shopping for a rug for your equine friend requires as much time and attention to detail, as you would take if you were shopping for clothes for yourself. As you would expect from any item of clothing you purchase (apart from those killer heels you couldn’t resist but never wear), a horse rug needs to be comfortable. It needs to be a good fit, and must not rub.

A good supplier will let you try before you buy, to ensure that the rug fits well. But be aware that if you decide against purchasing the rug the supplier will have to resell it, so make sure your horse is clean and sparkling and put a sheet or blanket on him, before trying the rug.

Don’t guess at the size of horse rug you’ll need – a guess is never as accurate as you think it’s going to be, so measure your horse before going shopping. To ensure a correct fit you need the following measurements:

- Withers to dock, following the contours of the horse’s back
- Centre of chest to quarters, in as straight a line as possible
- Withers to centre of chest

Darts, shaping and flexible fabrics are used to keep the rug in place. So, as well as getting the right measurements, it’s also worth taking the time to find one that most closely fits the shape of your horse. As is the way with clothes shops, you might find you’re a 12 in one store, but a 14 in the next – and it’s the same for horses. Although in theory the sizes are the same, in practice you may find that different brands will cut to slightly different shapes, so find the one that’s right for your horse, and don’t try and squeeze him into a badly fitting rug just because you like the pattern. Horse rugs still have imperial measurements, which go up in a scale of three-inch increments. Choose the closest size, and remember a loose fit is better than a tight fit.

Make sure the rug fits the body properly
However, also bear in mind that the rug should not be so long (from breast to tail) that it stops your horse from lifting his tail. Some manufacturers advise you to allow an extra three inches for well-built horses. The horse should be able to move freely and be able to lie down and roll without the rug slipping or causing restriction. The rug must fit well up the neck, about two to four inches beyond the withers, in order to avoid excessive pressure being placed on either the wither or the shoulder. The outside edge of the rug should lie well in front of the shoulder, allowing freedom of movement. The rug should fit snugly over the rump, which is where the aforementioned darts and shaping come into play. The rug should be deep enough to cover your horse’s belly.

Fastenings and straps
Surcingles (crossover under-belly straps) need to be fastened loosely so that the horse remains comfortable. Front fastenings should allow the rug to close together neatly across the chest without pulling, and should be easy to fasten. New Zealand rugs should overlap at the front, for extra protection. The fillet string is fitted under the horse’s tail and holds the rug in place, preventing it from slipping or being blown off in the wind. Many horse rugs have adjustable leg straps, which should always be threaded through each other so that they don’t rub on the sensitive area inside the hind leg.

And there you have it: our horse rugs 101. The important thing to remember, as with most horse tack and equipment, is that every horse is different. The way to overcome this when buying horse rugs is to try before you buy. The better fit your horse rug, the happier your horse and you will be.

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